We can never be filled

Forty-three years ago, I was born in a Baltimore hospital. My grandmother told me the story of my birth every time we drove past the Black and Decker building where my father used to work. It wasn’t a particularly interesting story except that I arrived two weeks early and he had to rush from work to meet my mother at the hospital and made it just in time. Many years later I had daughters of my own and both arrived two weeks early (well, one only 13 days).  The women in my family are speedy incubators or else the babies too cramped in there. Either way, it speaks to a certain genetic impatience.

Impatience and control issues dead end at anxiety. I’ve been a high-strung laid back person my whole life and quickly learned to self-medicate through chronic daydreaming, compulsive chewing of gum and fingers, then smoking, reckless but recreational sex and drugs, and finally a more serious focus on drinking and, last but not least, dessert. I have only found relief in giving up these things. Still fiddling with the last one and may not get there, honestly.

Not-drinking was the hardest thing I’ve successfully done (or not done), at least at first. Before I quit, I tried not to think about what life without alcohol would look like because I could only imagine bleak and uninteresting. Things never turn out like we imagine.

The other day, someone dear to me who still drinks shared these lyrics from a Swans song:

Now show some pity, for the weak of will
Because when we’re drinking, we can never be filled
Show some understanding for a lonely fool
Because when I’m drinking, I am out of control
Well I was never young, nothing has transpired
And when I look in the mirror, I feel dead, I feel cold, I am blind

It kills me because I remember that pain and know what worked for me. Well, I don’t know how to be completely filled. I’m still human but that pain from drinking, at least, is gone. I’m no longer blind.

I see how the choices I make affect others. Even the little choices matter, sometimes the most. I know I am not in control beyond that, which helps with anxiety, though I still get it pretty bad at times. Seeing it for what it is helps. I know the ups and downs are like waves I get to ride. The more I actually ride the waves, the easier it gets. Sometimes one pulls me under and fills my bathing suit with sand, but even the biggest ones dissolve and return to something much bigger and we get to do that too.

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scene from a mushroom farm diorama

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Just talk about trees

Birch and pine took the hardest hits from the ice storm of ’14. The frail, sensitive poet and the burly shop teacher in need of a shave hardly spoke before the storm and now they lay side by side on the ground and tumble together in the chipper.

Disaster, the great unifier.

Ice fell evenly from the sky, but some lost a disproportionate share of trees. Others were mysteriously spared, or at least it looks that way to someone just passing through. For every lawn covered in massive branches and entire trunks, there’s one to the side littered only with tidy snow patches. But if you look around, you might notice the white meat of snapped limbs or stumps where great trees once stood.

Some people just tend to their messes quicker.

The trees that huddled together in groves weathered the ice storm the best. It’s possible the ones in the center thought it was only rain and never felt the ice thicken and weigh down and snap.

It’s no guarantee, but there’s safety in numbers.

Of two trees that stand alone in our front yard, the japanese maple came out unscathed while the silver maple shed branches we will still be picking up next spring. Maybe some trees were healthier in ways we couldn’t see or they were pruned carefully over the years or sat closer to a stream during drought.

Resilience and strength aren’t visible from the outside.

The aftermath from the ice storm looks like Nature’s spring clean. She culled and cleared one day when she was in a terrible mood and then said “here, clean this up. I’m going to take a nap.” I guess it was better than forest fire or flood.

Even if it’s a plan I don’t understand, new opportunities come from loss.

It doesn’t do any good to guess why this tree and not that one or second-guess what we should have been doing all along to prepare. What’s done is done and now its time to walk around the yard and pick up branches and then turn around and notice a dozen more we missed.

Eventually we’ll amass a great pile and the sloppy, mossy ground will support new growth and we’ll all treat our trees with more reverence for at least a full cycle of seasons.

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Note: Later this week, in time to welcome Spring, look for a guest post by Whistler, who celebrates 1.5 years sober. 

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